Calling all watch experts, especially Russophiles
November 7, 2017 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Dug an old favorite watch out of my drawer, would love to know more about it. All I know for sure is that I got it in 1998 as a gift from someone who'd been in Poland, that it's self-winding, and that it has Russian text on the face and back. Anything else is surmise and conjecture.

Here are pictures of the front and back. Looking across the web, I think it's a Vostok, unless it's a knockoff. So I guess that's question 1. Question 2 is that I'd love to know its year and model, and what the text on the front and back says.
posted by the phlegmatic king to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total)
It's too hard to make out the front word, but the back says "Waterproof" and "Automatic winding."

For reference:

Top word: водонепроницаемый
Bottom word: автоподзавод
posted by papayaninja at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

And the front says "Командирские" or "Commander's."

I think it's a Vostok Komandirskie, model #921163.
posted by papayaninja at 9:49 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Try posting your question to the TimeZone forum, too. (Specifically, the vintage forum, which is for watches at least 20 years old.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

The word on the front is "Командирские" which indicates this is a military watch (командир = commander, roughly). The full phrase would be "командирские часы" (commander's watch) but the word "watch" is dropped as obvious and unnecessary, kind of like when a tin of tea says "select" instead of "select tea".

The series is "Восток Командирские", similar to watches being auctioned here or here. This series was made between 1965 and 1970 on government orders, with the view that the watches would be awarded to officers, not sold. There were two models in the series, Amphibia and Commander (watches linked in the auctions above are both Amphibia) with the difference being that Commander's were rated for up to 5m under water while Amphibia's were rated for up to 20m.

More detailed information on Russian Wikipedia: this page talks about the brand and this page talks about the manufacturer.
posted by rada at 10:23 AM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had a similar watch, a gift from a relative who traveled to the Soviet Union in 1988. Mine had an illustration of a tank instead of a submarine, and the leather band had a small acrylic dome attachment magnifying a paper black-and-white portrait of a soldier. Your watch shares its bezel with mine.

These watches were made for decades. As rada points out above, they were originally commissioned in the mid-60s to be awarded to officers (these are rare, marked with ЗАКАЗ МО СССР) and not generally available to civilians. Later models like yours and mine were made with less exacting movements for general consumption—but they are most likely genuine Vostoks and not knockoffs, still self-winding and as accurate as any mechanical watch I've ever worn.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:35 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Model 921163 referenced above is the modern version, currently in production (manufacturer's page). The interesting difference is that the modern version says "Made In Russia" on the bottom while the original model did not say the equivalent "Made In USSR" on the bottom, which it normally would in that era as well, and the reason that those words were omitted is because the watch was made on special government order and not for retail.
posted by rada at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2017

Thanks a ton, everyone!

So, synthesizing: fair for me to claim it's a civilian-grade Vostok Komandirskie, it seems. By rada's last comment, is it safe to extrapolate that it's Soviet-era?
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:42 AM on November 7, 2017

No, you are in possession of the military original! If it were a later made civilian watch, it would say "Made In USSR" on the bottom, where the anchor is. (That's the main clue... another clue is where it says "commander's", yours is in the middle while later civilian editions moved it higher or lower to make the brand stand out).
posted by rada at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Aha, thanks!
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2017

Ah, thanks Rada, good catch!
posted by papayaninja at 11:13 AM on November 7, 2017

As far as I can tell, that orca caseback isn't generally found with that dial or bezel, so you may either have something rare or a frankenwatch. I'd ask in a watch forum with an active Vostok collecting community.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:50 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

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